Wir töten Stella [Killing Stella] (2017)

Wir töten Stella
Director: Julian Pölsler
Writer: Julian Pölsler
Based on: Marlen Haushofer‘s novella
Cast: Martina GedeckMatthias BrandtMala EmdeKatja BellinghausenJulius Hagg
Seen on: 16.10.2017

Anna (Martina Gedeck) has the perfect family: she’s married to successful lawyer Richard (Matthias Brandt), they have a teenage son, Wolfgang (Julius Hagg), a beautiful home and more than enough money. So when their friend asks them to take in the 19-year-old Stella (Mala Emde), a beautiful but unrefined and withdrawn young woman, Anna accepts and gives Stella a bit of a make-over. But Stella’s presence disturbs the carefully cultivated family appearance.

Wir töten Stella is a strong, incredibly sad and very critical film. It’s beautifully made and despite a couple of lengths, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.

I already enjoyed the first cooperation between Julian Pölsler and Martina Gedeck in adapting a Marlen Haushofer novel – Die Wand. This time I was unable to read the novella Wir töten Stella before I saw the film (I didn’t look for it until close to the release date and then it turned out that they were just reprinting it, so I still have to catch up with it), so I can’t compare. But what the film brings to the table is an almost clinical look at self-centeredness without becoming unfeeling.

The story is told from Anna’s point of view with regular voice-overs. And while I’m usually not a big fan of voice-overs, I didn’t mind them at all in this case, especially since they’re often coupled with close-ups of Gedeck and her expressiveness that manages to be emotional and cold at the same time is a sight to behold. I also thought that the rest of the cast was very good (I assume that we’re going to hear much about Hagg yet, pretty and talented as he is).

With that framing, the film conveys eloquently how we’re all so busy wih ourselves that we neither notice the pain of others, nor our cruelty towards them until it’s too late. And even after we’ve noticed, all we can think about is how their pain makes us feel. Thus the pain of others becomes the focal point of our own self-centeredness. Admittedly, this is probably a very limited “we” – and definitely a privileged one – but it’s not untrue. The stifling atmosphere of the film is broken and at the same time underscored by dream sequences and a scene in the theater that were absolutely enchanting, too.

The story it tells is, unfortunately, not particularly new but has an almost timeless feel to it. And the film captures that quality perfectly, even if it could have done with a couple of small cuts here and there. But that shouldn’t keep you from seeing the film and feeling depressed about it.

Summarizing: excellent.

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